How to Manage Virtual Teams

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SUMMER 2009 V O L . 5 0 N O. 4 Frank Siebdrat, Martin Hoegl and Holger Ernst How to Manage Virtual Teams REPRINT NUMBER 50412 M A N A G I N G C O L L A B O R AT I O N AU S T R I A CZECH REPUBLIC UNITED KINGDOM I S R A E L WALLDORF, GERMANY Large multinational corporations like SAP must frequently assemble teams of people who work at different geographic sites. What’s the best way to manage such dispersed groups? How to Manage VirtualTeams BY FRANK SIEBDRAT, MARTIN HOEGL AND HOLGER ERNST THE LEADING QUESTION What do managers need to know about virtual teams? FINDINGS The overall effect of dispersion (people working at different sites) is not necessarily detrimental but rather depends on a team’s taskrelated processes, including those that help coordinate work and ensure that each member is contributing fully. Even small levels of dispersion can substantially affect team performance. When assembling a virtual team, managers should carefully consider the social skills and self-sufficiency of the potential members. Dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are colocated. To succeed, however, virtual collaboration must be managed in specific ways. TEAMS ARE THE typical building blocks of an organization: They provide companies with the means to combine the various skills, talents and perspectives of a group of individuals to achieve corporate goals. In the past, managers used to colocate team members because of the high levels of interdependencies that are inherent in group work. Recently, though, more and more companies are beginning to organize projects over distance, with teams increasingly consisting of people who are based in dispersed geographical locations, come from different cultural backgrounds, speak different languages and were raised in different countries with different value systems. Over the past

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